A philanthropic organization founded by a Chicago-area rabbi but funded mostly by western evangelicals has helped over 750,000 Jews fleeing persecution or poverty in their homelands to migrate to Israel as part of a process central to Zionism called aliyah.
With a total population of over 8.7 million, the 750,000 migrants brought to Israel in the last three decades with the help of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship) equates to more than one-twelfth of the national population.
The Fellowship was launched by the late Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein during the 1980s to serve as a “bridge” between the Christian and Jewish communities.
He was inspired to launch the Fellowship after Christian leaders came to him following the neo-Nazi rally in Skokie, Illinois, in 1977 telling him that they were looking for a way to stand with Israel.
Under Eckstein’s leadership, The Fellowship has grown to extraordinary heights and is now the largest philanthropic organization in Israel. And today, it brings in about $130 million in donations each year, much of which comes from American evangelicals.
“[M]y father said he felt like he was Christopher Columbus discovering America — suddenly he realized there are millions of Christians who love the Jewish people who stand with Israel,” the late rabbi’s daughter, Yael Eckstein, who now heads The Fellowship, told The Christian Post in a phone interview Thursday.
“But the Jewish community had no clue about this.”
In the early 1990s, The Fellowship launched its “On Wings of Eagles” ministry. The ministry is responsible for relocating hundreds of thousands of Jewish people from non-Western countries where their lives were in danger.
The first group of Jewish believers brought to Israel through the program were Jews fleeing the collapsing Soviet Union.
“It was in the early ’90s that the Soviet Union [was collapsing] and it was the Christian community who came and said we want to help the Jewish people get out of the former Soviet Union and to bring them to Israel,”